Taking a look at the legality of CBD Oil in Northern Ireland & the UK.
CBD has been a trendy product in the health sector for some years now. Users praise it for its wondrous effects and influencers post pictures of themselves with a different bottle of CBD oil every day. Scientists are hard at work trying to uncover more of the mysteries around this compound, while consumers are completely baffled in this mayhem and are wondering…
Is CBD oil even legal where I live?
The laws surrounding CBD are different in every country. In some countries, CBD is entirely legal, while in others it can only be used for medicinal purposes or is completely illegal. It’s hard to keep up with the constantly changing rules, but that is what we are going to do in this article.
We are going to take a look at the legality of CBD oil specifically in Northern Ireland and the UK.
CBD oil’s popularity has grown significantly here. According to the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTA), as of 2018, CBD had 250,000 consumers throughout the UK and 45% of them were aware of what CBD was and what it could do. The numbers have only increased since then.
So we are going to answer all your questions about the legality of CBD oil in Northern Ireland and the UK to erase any worries you might have and ease your mind for your next CBD purchase.
CBD or THC, which one is illegal?
CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are two of more than a 100 components of the Cannabis plant, called cannabinoids. These cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in our bodies which is a regulatory system that creates balance and is responsible for functions like sleep, anxiety, and pain. Through this interaction, the cannabinoids affect our bodies.
While THC is a psychoactive compound used for recreational purposes, CBD is non-psychoactive and under study for its medicinal properties. THC is the reason you get high when you smoke weed, and also the reason you become hungry and sleepy afterward. You can blame THC for short-term memory loss too. These factors have all contributed to THC being illegal in most countries.
CBD on the other hand, can counteract the effects of THC to some degree. It can reduce the amount of anxiety and memory loss caused by THC. Plus, scientists are doing more and more research on CBD and discovering its potential application in the health sector. As these studies show that CBD has more good to offer than bad, governments across the world are rethinking the laws around CBD and making it legal for its potential medical benefits.
A brief history of the legality of CBD oil in Northern Ireland & the UK
It was in 1928, after the passing of the Dangerous Drugs Act, when cannabis was declared illegal in the UK for the first time. Since then, cannabis had an on and off relationship with the UK’s legal system. It was classified as a non-addictive substance under the Class C drugs in 2001.
Then in 2008, it was illegalized again and went under the Class B drugs alongside amphetamines and barbiturates with up to 5 years of prison sentence for carrying it.
Now, most cannabinoids like THC are in the list of controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and therefore illegal to buy and consume.
CBD, being a derivative of hemp which is just one of the species of the Cannabis plant (the other being marijuana) follows slightly different rules and is exempt from this law. This is because hemp has a higher content of CBD and lower amounts of THC compared to marijuana and the CBD products in the market are all made from hemp.
So yes…CBD is not a controlled substance and is therefore completely legal to purchase and use in Northern Ireland and the UK.
However, there are some strict criteria that CBD products must meet to be considered legal.
Criteria for legal CBD products
With the legalization of CBD and its growing popularity, the number of CBD companies is increasing overwhelmingly. And a lot of these companies are putting out low-quality products, some of which contain illegal amounts of THC or even some vegetable oil!
To protect consumers, the EU has determined a specific set of criteria that all CBD companies must meet to be able to sell legally. Even with Brexit and leaving the European Union, the UK is still in a transition period until the end of 2020. So while its regulations on CBD might change after this period, it still follows the same rules as the EU.
Let’s take a look at these criteria.
Only certain strains of hemp with less than 0.2% THC can be used
The strain of hemp used for extracting CBD should contain less than 0.2% THC. This amount of THC is safe and won’t get the consumers high.
Although the EU has approved more than 60 different strains of industrial hemp for this purpose, farmers in Northern Ireland and the UK still have a limited choice compared to other countries like the US that aren’t bound to these rules.
From this limited choice of strains, Futura 75, Ferimon, and Finola are three of the best ones to grow in the UK and have the highest CBD content.
THC must not be extractable from the oil
The final CBD oil product must be in a form, or in combination with other substances in a way that it won’t allow others to extract the THC from it easily. Believe it or not, some people try to do that, and that can have dangerous health and legal consequences.
The little amount of THC in CBD products in combination with this rule makes it almost impossible to separate the THC content from the oil.
The CBD product should not be advertised as a medicine
CBD oils are still at the research level and have not passed enough tests to be approved as medicine, so they should not be advertised as such. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) stated in October 2016 that CBD must obtain a license before it can be sold as a medicine in the UK.
Any companies marketing their CBD products as medicine or claiming medicinal properties will be in big trouble. Instead, they can sell their products as food and dietary supplements, following the guidelines of the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA).
And of course, there are exceptions to these criteria.
Prescribed medicine, an exception to the rules
In November 2018, amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act permitted the use of cannabis-derived medicines. This makes medicinal cannabis products the only legal CBD-based products with more than 0.2% THC in them. These CBD medications are only available on a written prescription from a doctor and in certain conditions. Let’s take a look at some of these medicines:
- Sativex (Nabiximols) for Multiple Sclerosis (MS); if you have MS and are suffering from muscle spasticity and no other treatment seems to help, you are qualified to receive this cannabis-derived medicine. Sativex is a mouth spray made by the English company, GW Pharmaceuticals, and is available to MS patients on a prescription.
- Epidyolex for Epilepsy; some forms of epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, do not respond to other types of medications. If you or your children are suffering from these forms of epilepsy, you can ask your doctor about Epidyolex. This purified liquid was the first CBD medicine to be licensed for medical use and is available from the NHS.
- Nabilone for Cancer patients; cancer patients under chemotherapy will experience periods of nausea and vomiting. If you are undergoing chemotherapy and other medications are not effective in relieving these symptoms, you might be eligible to use the CBD-based medicine, Nabilone.
Which types of CBD products are legal?
Like we said before, CBD is not a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act, so any type of product containing CBD is legal, as long as it meets the mentioned criteria. These CBD products are available throughout Northern Ireland and the UK and include: